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A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 16, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nehring's opening assertion that she argues by provocation and aims to anger reveals the rhetorical nature of her argument that our tepid age needs a return to true Eros. Just what she advocates is unclear, since her examples range from the chaste passion of Emily Dickinson through the frenzied sexuality of Edna St. Vincent Millay to the open relationship of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Nehring does regret the collateral damage of this last pairing (a couple of cases of insanity and one suicide among their other lovers) and acknowledges that most of her case studies demonstrate excesses not to be emulated. That reduces her call for boldness in love to familiar clichés: absence makes the heart grow fonder; play hard to get; and defy social conventions in love (what is more of a postmodern cliché than advocating transgression?). Nehring, who has written for Harper's and the Atlantic among others, is a keen, empathic reader of literary texts, drawing attention to undervalued love writings like the letters of Horace Walpole and Madame du Deffand, and offering an astute reading of Dickinson's much-debated Master letters. But overall, she is more preachy and patronizing than provocative. (June)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Nehring's book stirred much debate among critics, who generally disagreed that her answers to our sad state of love -- romantic excess and passion -- offer feasible solutions. After all, asked the Philadelphia Inquirer, what is so gratifying about love as a "tumultuous, emotional struggle [filled with] tedious existential angst"? Other critics took issue with the idea that modern-day society lacks passionate love. The Wall Street Journal further pointed out that Nehring's prescription rests on a type of feminism that impedes our emotional well-being -- and disagreed that passion thrives on gender inequalities. Although provoking and ambitious, Vindication left most critics with the feeling that "we should strive for something beyond her notion of love-as-heroic-quest" (Philadelphia Inquirer) -- and that readers should probably move on.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060765038
  • ASIN: B00342VGF4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,979,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nehring's sweeping study of the amorous drives of men and women from classical antiquity through the present is a delight on many levels. She writes with the wit and grace of the journalistic pundit she is, but her scholarship is thoroughgoing and illuminating--especially about texts educated readers too easily assume they know all there is to know about. Nehring has surprising yet supportable things to say about Plato's amorous dialogues, Dante's Vita Nova, Trstan and Iseult, and the emergent courtly tradition. She delves deeply into creative lives, especially women's, to underscore what is unavoidably a radical and challenging thesis: that passionate--even seemingly crazy passionate--love far from blinds lovers; it lights their way as no other condition can. In Nehring's view, Love, acknowledged for what it is, is the way out of the deadening cultural malaise created by love-averse pundits on both right and left. This is a no-category treasure of a book.
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Format: Hardcover
Cristina Nehring navigates the rocky shoals between angry feminists and men honeslly confused by their movement to assert that we need a new time of "revived romantic hope...of fresh daring" between people who long for joy that love once seemed to promise to couples. She plumbs literature and literary biography to explore how love brought pain, joy, sorrow, and sublime engagement with life to her subjects, most of whom are from Western culture and the early modern world.
Her project is nothing less than to reinvent romantic love for the early 21st century, when we are often diverted by gender and power issues and a sense of triumphalism that sees marriage as the ultimate and only measure of success. (Not for a moment does she discount that wondrous outcome for many, however.)
It appears that Nehring's wellspring for her study may have come from her insight that "the more intelligent [women] are, the more ironical and distant [they] must be" to love's calling, its demands, its challenges. Au contraire, insists this American writer living in Paris: intelligent women are "excited by men."
For some of us, her chapter on "Love As Failure" may offer deep consolation over lives where love did not "succeed." She draws on the stories of Heloise and Abelard, Goethe's "Sorrows of Young Werther," and Ralph Waldo Emerson's love for Margaret Fuller. Each had its "brush with the sublime," she insists. Each partook of the "heroic and transcendent" nature of love, which we have lost and which she wants to "make honorable" again.
If you believe, or once did, that love held out a hope worthy of life itself, this book vindicates your belief. Argue against that proposition, if you will--but enjoy an inspiring argument, based in rich scholarship, and
presented in prose that doesn't miss a beat or a line.
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Format: Hardcover
All for Love

This wonderfully learned, wonderfully exuberant defense of love looks simultaneously at how we live in the contemporary world and how great lovers have behaved in the past. Sadly, for all our freedom of choice and opportunity, we moderns finish a distant second (or fourth, or fifth) place. Taking on the received wisdom of the decades following the sexual and feminist revolutions of the 60s, Nehring draws from her deep reading of the classics to argue for the qualities usually seen as threats to a desirable relationship: inequality, transgression, long distance, aggression, among others. Although all this stuff mother warned you about can easily turn a couple into wrecks like Sid and Nancy rather than the idealized lovers Nehring lingers on, we forget at our peril how human nature craves risk and obstacle to confront and overcome.

In its humanity and range of reference--Nehring is equally at home among the writers of antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the modern periods--this book reminds me of Ocavio Paz's splendid The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism, on the same subject. But where Paz's book reflects on love after a long lifetime of experience, Nehring's plunges in with the spirit of youth and an appetite for more life, more experience. Although one does occasionally wish for a more vigilant editor--figures such as "the famous French novelist of the nineteenth century, Stendhal" and "the Greek philosopher, Plato" stumble into the book before finding surer footing in Nehring's larger arguments--the author's deep, personal engagement with her material makes this volume a compelling read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is probably my favorite piece of cultural criticism in recent years. The bulk of the text deals with romance in fiction, but it's the general introduction that delivers the biggest punch. It addresses the way our culture denigrates women's interest in romance, and it's fascinating, fresh, and important. I loved this book. Kept underlining and putting stars in the margins. :)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cristina Nehring's academic yet passionate approach to the topic of "love" and "passion" adds a perspective seemingly having been lost in our more efficiency-oriented society. She successfully recaptures, or at least provides a strong polemic arguing for, the resuscitation of that most human about us that may not so neatly "fit" the more orderly, at times rigid and overly controlling boxes into which we attempt to contain matters of passion and the heart. Bravo for Nehring's cutting through to what would feel far more vibrant and alive within us.
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